Friday, August 14, 2009

bend and cough

I've been thinking of health care for a little bit. No, not because of the national debate, but because for the second summer in a row, I've ended up with some virtually untreatable foot injury. But, of course, the personal inevitably leads up to the public. I am a scholar, after all.

Obviously, for many of the people, facts in the health care debate don't really matter. The US is far from the leader in health care, we spend more but get less, there are no plans for the government to round up Granny and dispatch her with an ice pick, and so forth. The truth is out there and fairly easy to find, but a lot of people don't care about data, statistics, facts.

Okay, then how about personal narratives?

  • When I got kicked off my parental units's HMO, I was essentially without insurance for years. Thankfully nothing happened. However, I had great potential for disaster. To survive with no insurance, you either have to (a) be willing to kiss your credit goodbye for life if you end up going to a hospital, so most people (b) adopt the "eh, it will take care of itself" attitude which is especially stupid with serious injuries and illnesses.

  • When I started doctoral school, I was required to get mandatory student health insurance. It was minimal and sucked. In fact, the only place without a co-pay was the student health center, about which horror films should be written. Every doctor in the place followed this exact procedure: they'd ask you what was wrong, pretend to listen while replaying last night's Survivor in their head, tell you to open wide, and then go to a 50 gallon drum of miscellaneous pills, grab a handful, and chuck them at your head...with whatever stuck in your mouth being the "prescribed dosage." Literally.

    Okay, not literally, but it wasn't far off. I went in one time, told them I had a cold with a cough that kept me up last night...they gave me Codeine. I had fun that night, but I still realize it wasn't exactly the smartest or most ethical course of treatment.

  • During adjunct hell time, I was back into the no insurance/"it will take care of itself" mindset. Then I got a cyst very uncomfortable place...let's just say "the base of the spine." Okay, damnit, I had an ass-cyst. It hurt like hell to sit, and since I had to drive 75 miles a day to get to various crappy (pun intended) jobs, "wait and see" wasn't an option. Neither, however was a real doctor.

    My solution? I went to an "Urgent Care" place to get diagnosed. After sitting with temp workers and virtually homeless people for two hours (and I really don't mean this as an insult...I've been a temp worker, and I was, during adjunct hell, pretty close to homeless myself), had a 15 minute diagnosis that cost $150. I then had to go to a surgeon to get the cyst drained. This also took 15 minutes, but it cost about $300, if I recall. Admittedly, the assisting nurse was cute, but I was married...and she had to stare at my ass-cyst, so I wouldn't have stood much of a chance even if I was single.

    (Incidentally, I should add the doctors in the Urgent Care place were generally pretty nice and would try to give free samples if a prescription was needed. They understood that their job was to help those left behind from the US health care "system" long as they were lucky enough to have a credit card with some space left on it.)

  • However, not everyone is lucky enough to even be able to do Urgent Care. A few semesters ago, I had a student who had the same type of cyst I had. He also didn't have insurance...but unlike me, he didn't have the credit card to even go to a crappy Urgent Care place. His solution was to just tough it out.

    This guy must've been tough as hell, because he lasted over a month. I was in utter agony after only a week. However, his cyst got infected. I don't remember how he eventually got the cyst fixed, but financially, this must've killed him.

  • Now I have health insurance as part of my job. Moreover, it's actually pretty good. The doctor freaked when I told him I was over 2 years between checkups, but luckily, I had stayed relatively healthy. And now my insurance allows me to regularly see a doctor. But is it perfect? Well, let me briefly regale you with the exciting tale of last year's foot/leg injury:

    Last summer, I decided to start walking every day in an effort to get slightly healthy. This went well for about a month, but then I screwed up a ligament in my knee. The doctor had me X-rayed (a few hundred even with good insurance), gave me some daily stretches, and made me wear a knee brace. However, the knee brace made me walk differently, and this aggravated my plantar fasciitis in the other leg's I had injuries in both legs. Brilliant! Now, by this point, I had sunk a decent amount of coin in co-pays, and I hesitate to think what it would've cost me out of pocket. But how did I cure this? Well, I rested (meaning I reverted to my lazy non-exercising self) and hoped it went away on its own...the exact thing I would've done if I didn't have insurance in the first place!

Go health care! This so obviously doesn't need fixing at all. In fact, bring back the leeches!

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